Reflectors on fences can keep grouse from killing themselves

By adding reflectors to fence funded by the federal government on public lands, managers can reduce one of the major killers of sage grouse.

Environmental Defense says the relatively inexpensive addition to the thousands of miles of fence build on public lands can help the bird that is facing listing as an endangered species and its Midwest cousin the prairie chicken.

If the sage grouse is listed, it could have the same kind of impact on public land ranching that the listing of the spotted owl had on logging in the Pacific Northwest's old-growth forests in the late 1980s. It also could limit the development of wind, geothermal and solar energy across the western deserts and affect utility transmission line connections to these inherently widespread alternative energy developments.

"Reducing the hazard from fencing is a practical step that can be taken now to reduce one of the known threats to these birds," said Michael Bean, a senior attorney with Environmental Defense. "It could produce immediate benefits for very little money."

Studies have shown wire fencing to be a major cause of death for sage grouse and prairie chickens, which live in 15 states across the West. The birds cannot see the thin wires and fly into them.

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